CRM and the Cloud Platform – A Match Made in Heaven

The concept of “heaven” has been debated by countless philosophers throughout history and there are various theories on size, temperature and location. While there is some debate on the specifics, most people agree that heaven is where various personalities and types can co-exist in complete peace. Until now, that concept was a bit hard to swallow.

Heaven is a place on Earth? The story is an old one: sales and marketing often butt heads. Sales doesn’t see the point of marketing campaigns and blames marketing for lack of leads. Marketing blames the sales department for not properly implementing marketing strategies or driving the campaign in the correct direction. However, all this strife can be avoided with cloud-based customer relationship management (CRM) software.

The CRM: Customer relationship management systems are nothing new. As far back as the 1980’s, database management systems were tracking customer behavior to send out personalized communication for better sales. This software continued to mature, but it didn’t really take a large step forward until companies like Salesforce and Microsoft Dynamics began to create CRM that integrated customer data with other software like Outlook. However, the best was yet to come.

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The Cloud: The cloud platform is quite powerful and Software as a Service (SaaS) has only shown the greater potential of working straight out of the cloud. Applications like Outlook and Office are available on the web as a scalable application that can be accessed anywhere. Since the products don’t technically exist on computers, there is no need to upgrade the software. Suddenly organizations aren’t investing fortunes on software. The cloud offers fast, cheap freedom to large organizations and SMBs as well.

The Connection: Cloud-based CRM has been available in some form since 2007, but recent improvements to cloud platforms have completely changed the game. Suddenly SaaS allows access to customer data 24/7 from virtually any mobile device. That means that CRM can be used by small and medium sized businesses (SMBs) as well as giant companies with smart phones. Smart Point of Sale (POS) systems allow every sale to be monitored and stored in the cloud. Social Media and Big Data work together so that customers’ personal data is more readily available, making customer touch-points that much easier to track. Now the sales department is receiving reliable leads and truly customized customer information. The marketing department can easily trace the success rate of their campaigns because of tracked sales and touch-point interactions.

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The Future: CRM is growing and it’s only going to get bigger. In 2012, CRM grew by 12.5%. Gartner predicts $36 billion will be spent on the industry by 2017. Companies have taken notice and they continue to expand into the market. In fact, IBM is spending $1.2 billion this year to expand its cloud network. Everyone is banking on cloud-based CRM. Can your organization really afford to ignore that?

The easy part is accepting the cloud-based CRM. Now comes the hard part—how do you find the right CRM software and begin to make all that data work for you? Well, that’s where we come in. If you want more information on cloud-based CRM, please contact us for more information.

Using Social Media as a Catalyst for Your Not-for-Profit

Today we honor Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s legacy of advancing civil rights for Americans during a time of oppression and lost hope. Dr. King would have been 85 last week and since his time, the push for a better life for people all over the world has made great strides. In a world of instant connections, technology has helped several not-for-profits excel.

You may recall seeing stickers, signs and hashtags plastered on social media sites last year insisting you to help #StopKony. Kony 2012 was an Invisible Children (IC) campaign unveiling the abduction of thousands of African children by warlord Joseph Kony and the Lord’s Resistance Army. IC took to YouTube to share the story via video and within two days had more than 43 million views. As Forbes points out, the call to action from the video was simple: sign a pledge, get the bracelet and action kit and donate to stop Kony. Despite the political arguments and consequences of the campaign, it went viral quickly.

Much like Invisible Children, The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) gained attention about their “Too Young to Wed” campaign through viral video. When organizations successfully spark interest through video, viewers are prone to turn to websites for further information. Too Young to Wed’s website design creates a strong brand persona and avoids text saturated pages. Today’s generation spends about ten seconds on a page before deciding to navigate away, so compelling photographs that tell the organization’s cause are important, like this one:

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Stay relevant by riding the wave when it comes to Internet fads, but quickly know when to transition before you sink. Our Time gets this. Devoted to giving a voice for Millennials in the broad world of political issues, this not-for-profit combines Internet trends like memes and E-cards with to the point bits of information for their Tumblr posts.  Your organization’s demographic may not understand the jargon used within your industry. Research how your audience is speaking to each other and create content based off that. Combine it with what’s popular on the web and voila, instant online engagement.

Are you doing something for the community today in honor of Dr. King or have a specific not-for-profit organization you think deserves a pat on the back for their use of social media? Start a conversation with me on Twitter, @whatupTUT, or leave a comment for us below!

Social Media: A Modern Musician’s Best Friend

Most serious musicians understand the potential benefits of effective social media use (i.e. reaching new ears, connecting with fans on a deeper level and selling more music). However, some musicians feel that social media wastes time that could be spent improving a lyric, tweaking a melody or otherwise becoming engulfed in the euphoric blur that is the creative process.

As a lover of music and social media, I find myself with one foot in each of these camps. I understand the importance of protecting music-creation as an artist’s paramount focus. That’s a given. Without it, no amount of amazing marketing or networking will make much difference anyway.  I also understand that music fans don’t seek out, listen to or buy digital tunes the way they did in the past.

For musicians to reach their exposure potential, technology and social tools can’t be ignored. Below are a few tips to help musicians be heard in 2014.

Coordinate and cross promote. With so many different social platforms and apps to choose from, strategically choosing where to focus your time and energy is a must.  Facebook and Twitter are often where bands and musicians start, but consider communities like ReverbNation and SoundCloud, which are commonly used for sharing tracks. Tumblr and WordPress are great for personal blogging about your musical journey to connect with your audience on a more personal level. Instagram is well-suited for fan interaction. If you’re looking to raise capital for artistic projects and events, turn to your fans with crowdfunding sites like IndieGoGo and Kickstarter. Whenever possible, be sure to register official names and get verified to boost your credibility. Then, link all of your accounts together and promote your content across all platforms.

Quantify success with data. Like every other niche where social media is used, accessing and analyzing data is key in this era of digital music. The question is what’s most important to measure? SoundCloud plays or website visits? Twitter retweets or Facebook likes? If your ultimate goal is making money to fund the next tour or pay bills, dollars-in-pocket is the end all metric. Using data from link analytics from services such as Bit.ly can help you determine where your efforts are most successful. If numbers make your eyes bulge and your head hurt (and this does happen to some right-brained individuals), partner with someone who excels in this area (such as a social media manager at StrataBlue)!

Promote and build buzz. Using social media is a powerful way to raise awareness of important digital and “offline” happenings. Be creative in your messaging and utilize all platforms to promote upcoming tours and live shows, sell merchandise, announce song releases and drive traffic to music videos.

Scott Dylan, a digital marketing consultant, said it best in a recent article.

“Taking social media seriously is important in this digitally-driven day and age. For 2014, all musicians should make it a resolution to make more of an effort in the online sphere, and reap the rewards this time next December.”

What social tools have you seen work or flop for musicians? Leave a comment or tweet me at @AHersh317.

Blogs You Should Stop Writing in 2014

We’re already halfway through January, and we have already lived through the Best of 2013 lists. Now the “Things to Watch For in 2014” lists have all but sent us out into the streets armed with improvised month-old fruitcake weapons. January 17th is Ditch Your New Year’s Resolution Day, meaning that this Friday will be the best time to get rid of something annoying. With that in mind, let’s start with some blog posts.

blogpicSeriously, still? That’s right, I’m looking at you, fellow bloggers. Sometimes you create less-than-stellar blog posts, but you can still avoid the biggest sins. These are the big five when it comes to social media blog posts.

  • Obvious optimization techniques: You mean I can really just pay Facebook to boost a post? Well, thank you so much for that tip! Social media marketing is still a new and innovative environment, but it’s hardly the Wild West anymore. We all know to check Facebook Insights for optimum post times.

Solution: Share something that you personally do to improve your social media management. Perhaps you’ve made Twitter lists for all your competitors. Share that. It may not work for everyone, but at least it’s something new.

  • Insanely long list blogs. Hey, I know lists are our bread and butter for content. But the truth of the matter is the average adult’s attention span is only about five minutes. Worse still, less than half of the online audience reads anything beyond 100 words on a website. And less than a third of all viewers of this blog (28%) will finish it. With such short focus, do you really want to test their patience with 57 More Ways to Attract Your Audience?

Solution: Don’t repeat yourself. Be brief. If you really do have 57 pieces of useful content, do everyone a favor and make a series about it.

  • Explaining Social Media Platforms: This one is really about knowing your audience. Anyone that has sought out your blog probably knows what Twitter is. The most recent case of this was the Edward Snowden coverage. Every other blog post re-explained who he was and why the reader should care about the situation, despite the meat of these stories being about something very specific or current.

Solution: Get to the point. If you have someone relevant, just say it. All of your readers have access to Google; they’ll look something up if they aren’t familiar with it.

  • Social Media is like… Please stop trying to say social media is like everything. It’s not. You’re not Forrest Gump, and it’s not inventive anymore. Sure, I’m a little guilty of this, but I was at least a little clever about it. I also didn’t stretch the metaphor like a pair of two year old skinny jeans.

Solution: Ask yourself, does this really fit? Because if you have to work too hard on the connection, it’s not. You went on a cave diving trip and we’re glad for you. You can always do some social media research on the way home. Don’t torture it into a blog post.

  • Exaggerating Your Optimization: If you have a foolproof way to get all of your readers a million Twitter followers, I doubt you’d be writing a free blog about it. Exaggerating the usefulness of your content seems unprofessional and spammy.

Solution: Be honest and show your work. If you’ve had real luck with using text-only Facebook posts, tell your readers how much that has helped you (in numbers) and perhaps show an image of how many fans it reached.

Social media marketing is going to get very crowded in the near future. Trying to get past the wall of noise will be hard enough for someone with useful content so don’t clog up the pipes even more with these posts. Think outside the blog and come up with something cool.

What blog posts are you sick of seeing? Comment below or message me on Twitter at @mendal187.

No One Puts Social Media in the Corner!

Every time I read an article or blog post that tells me how I should leverage social media as a tool in my “marketing toolbox,” I cringe a little. It’s true, historically the marketing department has often been tasked with developing and managing organizations’ social media programs. This connection is natural and understandable. The importance of maintaining a strong social media presence for marketing purposes is also well documented! But don’t be so quick to cram all social media tools into the corner of a little square box labeled “marketing.” When you begin to look at social and mobile platforms as toolboxes all their own—able to be implemented and operated in countless different ways—you begin to realize that creativity really is the only limiting factor. Here are few examples:

Customer Service. With great social power comes great responsibility for businesses. “We’re getting to the point now that if companies don’t respond [to social media feedback] they will have a black mark against them,” warns Inc. This is significant when you consider how many customer service opportunities are missed by organizations every day. Up to 70% of companies ignore customer complaints on Twitter—and that’s just one platform! Delivering service recovery and harvesting improvement ideas aren’t the only customer service functions that social media can support either. Responding to positive reviews, genuinely thanking customers and engaging with other individuals’ content are keys to developing a strong online community with a positive sentiment toward your company.

Human Resources. Over the past several years, there has been huge growth in the number of businesses using social media to attract and engage customers. More recently, HR departments have been hopping on board, using social networking tools like LinkedIn and apps like HireVue to connect with talented, highly-qualified employees. On the other end of the spectrum, candidates are using many of the same social channels to investigate and evaluate companies before applying. Savvy individuals are even using resources such as glassdoor.com to get the “real scoop” on employers from past employees. If you’re curious what social HR trends will take off in 2014, take a look at 2014: The Year Social HR Matters published in Forbes by Jeanne Meister.

Internal Communications. Effective internal communication is critically important to every business in every industry. Consider the possible benefits of utilizing an enterprise social network, such as Yammer, within your company.  Imagine employees quickly and easily asking each other questions and sharing ideas. Then envision a supervisor responding to a concern and posting a Happy Birthday message to a team member. The idea of building an internal community is really about fostering employee engagement, boosting workplace morale and reinforcing your company as a great place to work. In this article, Social Business News lays out a 5-step roadmap for harnessing the power of social media for internal business communication.

What are your thoughts about using social media beyond the standard marketing role? How have you seen companies utilize social media in creative ways? Send a tweet to @AHersh317 and keep the conversation going!

Crowdsourcing Content: A Win-Win Situation

Content is a hot topic lately, with everyone scrambling to find it, put it out and increase their SEO efforts by doing so. In order to keep up with the content demand, have you considered crowdsourcing?

Crowdsourcing content works in favor of both the company and the consumer. Consumers want to play a bigger role in the brands that they support, and consumer-produced content is highly cost-effective for brands. Content marketing is 63% less expensive than traditional marketing according to Demand Metric, and three times better at generating leads. Through crowdsourcing your content, you can increase your value and raise consumer confidence in your brand.

For example, take sites like Yelp and Urbanspoon, which run solely on reviews posted by consumers. Studies have shown that content produced by consumers seems to make more of an impact on other consumers. Why? Well think of it this way: would you trust the opinion of a blog writer hired by the brand or an everyday average person that has used the product/service? People want to hear the opinions of their friends or actual users.

Keys to Crowdsourcing 

Hiring staff to write content can become costly, but having your consumers write your content for you isn’t. On average, how long does it take for you to write a blog post? Not just your musings of the day, but a well-researched, thought-out and documented blog? Think of that time in term of dollar signs and how much you could save by having your customers do the work.

  • Offer an incentive. Have your customers submit to a contest by entering a funny photo or video of them using your product/service. The prize should be related to your business or perhaps even a new product you have to offer, but it has to be worth entering to win. You can then use the submissions as content on your social media pages or website. This will not only give you content to choose from, but will also create a social buzz around your brand.
  • Give recognition. People love to be recognized and appreciated, especially when they become a loyal customer for a brand. While on Twitter, retweet your brand advocates and engage in conversation with them. When you have a new product or service launching, let those same brand advocates be the first to try it out…and let them write about it! Use pictures, blogs, videos or any other content your brand advocates create to showcase your new products/services and give full credit to them for the reviews.
  • Encourage engagement. While you can crowdsource as much content as possible, you’ll still need to keep up a regular blog schedule. In order to keep crowdsourcing, inspire your readers to leave comments. Comments will not only boost your SEO with Google, but they can be a great source of feedback from consumers. Give your point of view and ask open-ended questions towards the end.  Once your readers start to comment on your blog, make sure to follow up with every comment and even ask more questions. If appropriate, repurpose comments as quotes you can use on social media or your website.

If you need help with your content marketing strategy, contact us for help. Have you used crowdsourced content for your website? How did you get your readers to participate?

How Can Marketing Automation Help Your Business?

Getting clicks and impressions on your online content has value, especially when it earns leads. But the bottom line for all businesses is the revenue.

Your business (hopefully) has a social media presence and you send out a weekly email newsletter. Your marketing department stays on top of current trends and brainstorms creative ways to get your message conveyed. You have eye-catching landing pages put in place and your website clicks are increasing. You have assembled the best sales team possibly, but you can’t seem to put your finger on what’s working and what’s not. This is a gap that most marketers don’t know how to fill: how do you tie together all of your efforts to increase revenue?

78% of high-performing marketers indicate that marketing automation systems are partly responsible for improving revenue contribution. Also, 25% of all B2B Fortune 500 companies are already using marketing automation!

So what exactly is marketing automation? If you don’t know, you’re not alone. 44% of B2B buyers do not know what marketing automation is. Marketing automation is a technology that helps move leads from the top of the marketing funnel to becoming a sale at the bottom. This uses a range of information, incorporating both inbound (such as social media) and outbound (such as email) functionality in addition to CRM integration to streamline, automate and measure your marketing efforts. In turn, this will help increase your efficiency and boost your revenue.

Here are some of the key benefits of marketing automation:

  • ROI. One of the most important features of marketing automation is tracking your results. Find out what’s working and what’s not so that you can change your process to help generate more revenue. You can also assign a score to your leads to track your progress through the sales funnel so that you know what’s most important and pressing.
  • Customer Retention. Marketing automation lets you understand your customers’ behavior, allowing you to reach them in a customized manner at different points in the sales process. This also creates customers loyalty and facilitates a long-lasting relationship.
  • Cross Selling. When you know the characteristics, behaviors and actions of your customers, you’ll know how to cross-promote. If you customers likes Product A, they’ll love Product B but hate Product C. This will help turn a customer from a one-time buyer to a devoted fan.
  • Cost Reduction. Cut the amount of time you spend on marketing by automating tasks such as email. Marketing automation provides 70% shorter sales cycles and 54% improvement in sales quota achievement. Think of all the time and resources you could save!
  • Lead Nurturing. One study says that 84% of qualified leads aren’t ready to buy. Instead of cold calling, find out exactly when to nurture leads for a sale. You’ll be able to get in front of your customers when they have the intent of buying instead of blindly marketing to them. Not only that, but you’ll know what your potential lead wants, needs and cares about in advance.

Marketing automation isn’t just for large corporations any more; many small and medium businsses are using this software to help improve their marketing strategy. If you’re ready to make the leap instead of being left in the dust, contact us!

Email Marketing Isn’t Dead, It’s Making a Comeback

Email isn’t dead, it’s making a comeback.

According to a 2012 Blue Kangaroo study, 7 in 10 people say they made use of a coupon or discount from a marketing email in the prior week. Also, 44% of email recipients made at least one purchase last year based on a promotional email.

Social media is a great tool for building your brand, generating a buzz and spreading the word about your product/service. This is at the top of the sales funnel to help spread your company’s mission to reach a large audience. This allows you to share broad topics and build a community around your brand. So what’s the next step?

When you’re ready to move your customers down the funnel through the path of purchase, it’s time to incorporate email marketing. Research shows that 90% of consumers report daily email use, with the largest group being Millennials. Email marketing goes beyond fans and followers, and is accessible to both mobile and desktop users. What is the point of having a large database of “customers” that have no value or won’t make a purchase when you can target high-value customers and drive them to opt in to your email list?

So how can you increase your email database to start reaching more customers? Here are five things you should be doing:

  • Create a contest. Use a third party app such as Wishpond to create a contest on Facebook and require customers to give you their email in order to enter. Make sure that the contest you create has a relevant prize to your company. For example, if you are a store that sells culinary equipment, have a contest to win a gift card or perhaps a free cooking class. This way, you know that the people who are entering (and giving you their email address) are valuable potential customers.
  • Inform your social media fans and followers when a newsletter is going to come out. Give them a sneak peek of what will be included in the newsletter along with with a link they can follow to sign up. the sneak peek should be a teaser into insider information a reader can only get by being subscribed to your email list.
  • Segment your list to personalize your message. Instead of sending out one mass email to your entire database, tailor your emails by looking at customer data such as browsing history, purchase history and click throughs. Create different variations of your email to send a more private and personal message to your customers.
  • Include a popover window on your website. One study has shown that 43 of all deal email sign ups come from popover email registration boxes.
  • Offer an incentive. Just as social media contests are popular due to the incentives offered, you can grow you email list by offering a discount or free sample. Maybe you give your customers a coupon code for 10% off their next purchase, or perhaps a free sample-sized product. Whatever the incentive is, make it worth your customers’ time to sign up.

Need help getting started? Contact us to get an email marketing plan put into place.

Putting Your Business in Front of the Camera

Your business has a Facebook page and Twitter account, but does it have an Instagram account? You might be asking yourself, “Why do I need an Instagram account too?”

If you have read my previous blog about the power of video, then you will know the future in social media marketing lies in video and pictures. A study done by Brainshark shows that video equals higher viewer retention; the information retained in one minute of online video is equal to about 1.8 million written words.

If you think video isn’t the future of marketing, ask yourself, “Why would one of the most popular apps decide to add it to their repertoire?”  According to a study done by Eloqua, about 46% of people say they’d be more likely to seek out information about a product or service after seeing it in an online video. Don’t get overwhelmed, you don’t need to post videos all day long. Rather think of this as a creative marketing tool for your company’s social media presence.

Getting started is quite easy; all you have to do is download the Instagram app, switch over to video and start recording! Here’s the most important part: to record you have to hold down the button the whole time. Releasing the button will stop the recording, which is how you edit video to add different angles to the video. The best way to figure this out is by recording a few test videos. The great thing about using this video tool is that the maximum time you can record is 15 seconds. You might think that’s a short time but stop what you’re doing right now and count to 15. 1 Mississippi, 2 Mississppi…you will see how much time you have to work with.

Some great examples of how to take full advantage of this service are:

  1. How-to videos are great! Whether you are demonstrating how to tie a tie or fix a flat tire, these types of videos tend to get lots of views. Use the #HowTo hashtag to gain even more exposure.
  2. Give your viewers a  behind-the-scenes video of your business that shows people the inner workings of how you work. Ben and Jerry’s did a really good job at this.
  3. Have some fun and make a stop-motion video.
  4. Involve your fans! Create a unique hashtag and have your fans make their own Instagram videos. Fans can submit their own videos using your unique hashtag for a contest.
  5. Promote an event. Are you having a sale or hosting an event? Give sneak previews of what is in store, which also serve as free advertising for your event.
  6. Customer testimonials. Get some of your customers in front of the camera and have them tell the world what they love about your business. It’s nice to see real people using your services or products, and you can even tag them on Instagram to gain the trust of your viewers.

The possibilities of your videos go as far as your creativity can go. If you need some inspiration, go to the Explore tab and look at some videos. Are you already using Instagram video for your business? Connect with me on Instagram and show me some of your creative videos.

Prevent Holiday Social Media Burn Out

Social media is an industry that never shuts off. It is constantly changing and evolving, even at 2 am on Saturday morning. A position in social media can sometimes be overwhelming. During the holiday season, everyone’s stress level goes up. but in this business you have to always be on top of things.

November and December are some of the busiest times of the year in social media considering all of the holiday content marketing that is done.  According to America’s National Retail Federation, holiday sales in 2012 represented 19.3% of total industry retails sales. 54% of shoppers use social media while shopping and 65% of shoppers use social media to find gifts. These shoppers are looking for digital coupons, holiday contests, holiday sales, product reviews and more, which means that your social media campaign must be ramped up into overdrive!

Here are some simple things you can do as a social media manager each day to prevent burning out over the holidays:

  • Working through lunch might seem like a good way to get ahead, but this is a great time to step away from the monitor and recharge your batteries. Go outside and get some fresh air or enjoy a new restaurant. Time away from your work can give you a new perspective on a project you are working on.
  • One of the healthiest ways to relieve stress and prevent burnout is a great workout. An hour in the gym will make you focus on something other than work. Your health is just as important as your career, so schedule a gym session like you would a meeting. And don’t be late or cancel!
  • The most important word in social media is ‘social’ so don’t forget to have at least one account that you use for your personal life. Have fun with it! If you make social media all about work, it will become unenjoyable and will affect your work. Follow some light-hearted social media profiles.
  • It’s a fact that social media never sleeps, but you need to sleep. Every day, schedule a time where you unplug from work at night and stick to it.
  • Another big hurdle is to not feel guilty about stepping away from social media. It doesn’t help if you stop working only to stress about not working.
  • Use tools like Sprout Social or HootSuite to schedule posts. That way, you know going into the day you have content going out so you can focus on other tasks.
  • Having a clear plan each week and sticking to it will help you focus on your immediate tasks. It will also keep you from spending time bouncing around each social media platform without a goal.’

Following these simple steps will allow you to continue enjoying work and the holidays. There is nothing wrong with being passionate about you do, but you need to know when to separate from work, especially within the social media industry. What have you done to bounce back from social media burnout? Tweet at me @Cbyron11.